SCBWI Announces the Winners & Honorees of the 2010 Golden Kite Awards

The 2010 Golden Kite Awards are presented for excellence in books for young readers published in the 2009 calendar year. The award is sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Golden Kite Award Winners

Sea of the Dead
By Julia Durango
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Julia’s second novel, Sea of the Dead,
is a fast-paced adventure story for middle-grade readers,
which draws the reader quickly into a world loosely based on Central America,
although with an alternate history.


Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song
By Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster)

Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song is an autobiographical picture book,
which also won this year’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.
Ashley is a three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Picture Book Text

The Longest Night
By Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ted Lewin
Holiday House

The Longest Night text tells the story of a tiny creature
whose voice summons the new day.

Picture Book Illustration

Illustrated by John Parra
(written by Pat Mora)
Lee & Low Books

John Parra’s bright and delightful illustrations
follow a young multiracial boy’s gratitude
in a bilingual celebration of family and friendship.

Golden Kite Honor Recipients


Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me
By Nan Marino
Roaring Brook Press

Neil Armstrong…is librarian Nan Marino’s debut novel.


Ernest Hemmingway: A Writer’s Life
By Catherine Reef
Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Catherine Reef is the author of more than
40 award-winning nonfiction books for young readers.

Picture Book Text

Bella & Bean
By Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster)

Read the Cynsations interview with Rebecca.

Picture Book Illustration

Bad News for Outlaws
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
(written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson)
Carolrhoda Books

R. Gregory Christie is a three-time Coretta Scott King Honor recipient.

The Golden Kite Awards, given annually to recognize excellence in children’s literature in the previous calendar year, grant cash prizes of $2,500 to author and illustrator winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration. Authors and illustrators will receive an expense-paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the award ceremony at the Golden Kite Luncheon at SCBWI’s Annual Summer Conference in August.

The Golden Kite Awards are given each year to the most outstanding children’s books published during the previous year, and written or illustrated by members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Four panels of three judges each (one panel for each category, consisting of author or illustrator members of SCBWI whose own works are that of the category being judged), award the titles they feel exhibit excellence in writing or illustration, and that genuinely appeal to the interests and concerns of children.

An Honor Book plaque is awarded in each category as well. A certificate of acknowledgment is presented to the author of the picture book illustration award book and the illustrator of the picture book text award book.

General Information

Founded in 1971, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. The organization was founded by Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), both of whom are well-published children’s book authors and leaders in the world of children’s literature.

The Golden Kite Awards will be presented to the winners on Sunday, August 1st at the Golden Kite Luncheon, the centerpiece event of SCBWI’s 39th Annual Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, taking place at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel July 30th – August 2nd, 2010.

A list of previous Golden Kite Award winners and honor books is available on the SCBWI’s website:

Author-Illustrator Interview: Salima Alikhan on The Pied Piper of Austin

Learn about author-illustrator Salima Alikhan. Peek: “My mother is from Germany, and my father was born in India and raised in Pakistan. Therefore I grew up with a very interesting mix of fairy tales in the household.” Note: Salima now makes her home in Austin, Texas.

Her latest book is The Pied Piper of Austin (Pelican, 2009). From the promotional copy:

In Austin, Texas, bats seem to be everywhere!

Just when the citizens begin to fear that their flying-critter situation is spiraling out of control, a mysterious man appears and offers to help them with their problem.

At first, everyone is skeptical, especially when it seems that playing an elegant silver pipe is his solution.

But as the melodious tunes fill the Austin air, bats suddenly surround the Piper, following him as he leads them to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where they hang out of sight.

The town rejoices until the Piper returns demanding payment from the mayor.

When his request is refused, he retreats with warnings of consequences. Once again, he plays his enchanted pipe. Charming music moves through the city, but now the Piper has a new following—the children of Austin.

After the Piper and the dancing children begin to disappear just like the bats, frantic parents realize that the Piper’s threats were real. Finally, they promise to pay the Piper if he returns their beloved children.

When he agrees to the compromise, the kids return to joyful cheers and hugs. The Piper collects his payment, and he is never seen or heard from again.

This is the classic tale of the Pied Piper told with a Texas twist. The strikingly colorful illustrations will inspire children’s imaginations as much as the whimsical story itself.

What first made you decide to write for young readers?

I’ve always drawn and written in what I guess is the fantasy vein, which seems to lend itself naturally to children’s books. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was just that what has always come out of me seems to match this particular genre.

Could you tell us about your path to publication–any sprints or stumbles along the way?

It took about three years of active perseverance to break into the industry. I attended conferences. I submitted portfolio pieces, book dummies, and novels like a madman (Kinko’s was my second home.)

There were lots of standard rejections, but if you don’t count those, not many major pitfalls. I took rejections in stride and, weirdly enough, never cried over one (which, by the way, I think is perfectly okay to do.)

Could you update us on your back-list titles, highlighting where you see fit?

The books I’ve illustrated are Pieces of Another World by Mara Rockliff (Sylvan Dell, 2005, 2010), Rocky Mountain Night Before Christmas by Joe Gribnau (Pelican, 2007), and my latest, The Pied Piper of Austin (Pelican, 2009), which I wrote and illustrated.

Congratulations on the publication of The Pied Piper of Austin (Pelican, 2009)! Could you tell us about the story?

Thank you! It’s a regional take on the classic fairytale. It’s about the Piper, a cryptic stranger who visits Austin, gets betrayed by the (fictional) mayor, and seeks revenge.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

Well, as a child I loved the fairy tales that had nothing to do with princesses—the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Puss in Boots, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

And I love Austin. The Piper seemed like sort of a natural fit for Austin.

And truth be told, I love the darkness and ambiguity in the original story, the fact that there’s no clean resolution. I changed that bit of course, and made it more child-friendly.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The inspiration was in September 2007, I think, and it was published almost exactly two years later.

No major events along the way; very smooth sailing, aside from what may have been a bigger event for one of my poor friends than it was for me—getting him to wear tights and play a wooden spoon for the Piper’s reference shot pictures.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

I usually draw out of my head, and was challenged here because I had to make things resemble actual Austin landmarks. For me, it is much harder to draw from life than imagination. I visited City Hall, the Capitol, the sculpture garden, Mount Bonnell, Barton Springs, the Congress Bridge. There are slight deviations from those places, but for the most part they are recognizable.

What about the picture book audience appeals to you?

I love kids. I’ve worked with them for years (I was an art teacher) and only stopped because I found the combination of teaching and doing picture books to be a little too much.

I still get to be around them when I do school visits though, which is a lot of fun.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I would assure myself that my initial hunch was right—that if I persist, learn, practice, and retain that crazy faith in myself that all writers must have (but that sometimes feels groundless before you see any reward)—I would break into the industry. So I would pat myself on the back and say, “Good job.” I would also caution myself to have a little more patience.

How about if you could go back and talk to yourself when you were a beginning illustrator?

The same as above. Writing and illustrating have always been a package deal. To me, it just feels like “the work,” all in one.

What is your best tip for book promotion?

Making contacts at stores you know might carry your book. In the Austin area, this is incredibly easy because there are so many small shops that cater to Austin area artists/authors.

School visits are also a huge plus. Also, for the record, scheduling them is not difficult. For my second book, I cold-called every single elementary school in Austin and had about ten visits that year, which isn’t bad. Even with school budgets being cut, some can still afford to have an author out.

How do you balance your creative life as a writer-artist with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, contracts, etc.) of being an author-illustrator?

I am not organized. I could do with a schedule-monkey who lives on my shoulder and reminds me of the smaller things (eating, sleeping, actually selling the books I work so hard to make). I would then be free to live in the ether that may or may not become a story one day.

To answer fairly, though, I’ve been pretty ambitious about scheduling appearances and signings in the last couple years, but, like most artists, what I definitely enjoy most is being home in my PJs and creating.

Other than your own, what is your favorite recent picture book and why?

I loved Crow Call by Lois Lowry (Scholastic, 2009). I love her, I love illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline, I love the Andrew Wyeth-y palette, I love the somber, honest story.

What do you do in your spare time?

I bike, I hike, I do yoga, I hang out with my friends and beautiful kitty Esme. Most of my time, however, is spent writing and drawing.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Well, I’m illustrating another book for Pelican called Lawyer’s Week Before Christmas. I also have a book I wrote and illustrated out for submission, and I’m writing a YA fantasy novel. Busy, but very exciting.

Library-Loving Blog Challenge

From Jennifer Hubbard:

A group of bloggers, most of them writers, will be using their blogs, facebook accounts, or other social media to raise money for local libraries, bookmobiles, and literacy causes.

They are looking for bloggers or Facebookers to join in.

If interested, please email jennifer[at]jenniferhubbard[dot]com by March 21.

Last year, this effort raised over $1600.

This year’s challenge will run from March 23 to March 27. Here’s how it’ll work:

Participants put up a blog post during that week (facebook or other media can be used for people who don’t blog.)

Participants agree to donate a certain amount of money for every comment they receive on that post by a certain date. (Example: “Donating 25 cents per comment to my local library, for every comment received by noon on March 27, up to a maximum of $100.”)

The money goes to the local library, bookmobile, or other literacy-based charity of his/her choice. Donation caps are allowed, and participants will receive a suggested template for the blog post.

Libraries have suffered in this economy like everyone else–budget cuts are affecting all levels of government. But at the same time, library usage is increasing, not only because the books, tapes, DVDs, CDs, etc., are free to borrow, but because libraries provide so many other services–assisting people with job searches, for example.

See more information or email jennifer[at]jenniferhubbard[dot]com.

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Agent Interview: John Cusick of Scott Treimel NY

Interview by Jenny Desmond Walters for SCBWI Bologna 2010

Your bio mentions that you began work at Scott Treimel NY literary agency the same year you completed your degree at Wesleyan University. At what point did you realize that working in children’s publishing was something you wanted to do?

I worked as Wesleyan Press’s permissions manager and knew I wanted to pursue a publishing career. I sort of fell into juvenile.

Shortly after starting at STNY, I attended a Clarion party, in the middle of which I was pulled aside to where my boss and an editor were reviewing some artwork. They were so excited, giggling like kids. That’s when I knew I was in the right biz.

I’m fascinated that your degree also included Russian Literature, and I have always been in awe of stories that come from this amazing country. Are there elements of Russian Literature that you particularly admire, and does your expertise in this area affect the kinds of books you enjoy working with and/or writing?

There’s a lusty passion in Russian writing, especially Dostoevsky. I love his blowout dinner scenes where everyone pulls their hair and curses. I appreciate that kind of bombast and choreographed chaos.

Also the stories of Gogol and Pushkin have an ethereal quality that reminds me of Bridge to Terabithia [by Katherine Paterson (HarperCollins, 1977)] and Tuck Everlasting [by Natalie Babbitt (FSG, 1975)].

The Russians also were phenomenal with doubles and the use of subtexts (like Tolstoy reading Flaubert, or Dostoevsky reading Balzac), two devices I work at in my own writing, and am always excited to see come across my desk.

You wear an impressive number of hats in the children’s publishing business and your own young adult novel, Girl Parts (Candlewick, Aug. 2010), hits the shelves this year. How would you describe the experience of being on the author-side of publication, and what would you say has been your favorite aspect of this new endeavor?

It was terrifying when my boss (also my agent) read my manuscript literally ten feet from my desk. Every time he went “hmm,” I hit the ceiling.

But I think being an agent or editor is the most eye-opening job a wannabe author could have. I’ve learned so much about what makes a book successful from conception to promotion, both artistically and fiscally.

Recently, I did a reading for the folks at Candlewick, my publisher, and that was an all-time high.

I thoroughly enjoyed catching up on some of your recent tweets on Twitter. I laughed at your post about not being able to relax on a Sunday unless you’ve read 20 queries. It made me realize the heavy sense of expectation that agents must be under to work through the submissions pile.

For many writers, the idea of the slush pile causes night terrors. Can you demystify the process for us a little bit and also tell us what qualities you look for as you read?

When I receive a query, I look for three things in this order:

Firstly, did the author follow our guidelines? It may seem picayune, but it’s a litmus test of professionalism.

Secondly, I look for a strong, coherent story concept. If it’s too familiar, or too generic (i.e. “loner kid comes of age and struggles with bullies and first love”), I know we’ll have trouble selling it.

Finally, I look for precise, tight writing. If the voice is original, all the better.

Professionalism, strong story, strong writing. That’s what I (and I think all agents) look for.

Approximately how many queries do you receive each month at Scott Treimel and of those, what percentage may earn a follow-up from the agency?

We receive roughly three-hundred queries a month, and 90% are immediately rejected. Of the sample pages we read, we ask for full manuscripts maybe 20% of the time.

You have a very active online presence both as a literary agent and as a writer. Do you feel that it is more important for writers of certain genres to be accessible online or is blogging, tweeting and facebook-ing an important outlet for those writing for every age of reader?

For authors of teen books, it’s especially important. The more places readers find you and your work, the better. If you’re not wild about journalistic blogging, there are more creative ways to exploit the web. For instance, for Girl Parts, I’m developing blogs and twitter feeds from the characters’ points of view. However, as an unpublished author seeking representation, your time is best spent developing your craft. Write first, tweet later.

What qualities and sets of skills do you think make an agent successful in his or her career?

I think it takes longer than I’ve been around to know the answer to this question. But from what I can tell: total commitment to your author, to the best book possible, and to working with publishers to create the best atmosphere for the author’s success. You have to be your client’s creative consultant, hired gun, best friend, therapist, and toughest critic. Like any job, it’s also great if you love what you do. Which I do.

In your bio, you mention that you also work on developing manuscripts. How important is it that a writer be willing to make revisions to a story, and do you suggest that writers state that willingness up front in a cover letter or is that something better discussed if a follow-up conversation takes place?

We take it as a given that writers will revise. More than ever, agents must develop manuscripts because editors can’t afford the risk of purchasing underdeveloped material.

It shocked me to learn how many drafts a manuscript goes through before it’s acquired, let alone hits the shelves. Even authors with fabulous careers and awards still need at least one fresh pair of eyes after a first draft. It’s just part of the process.

Are you currently accepting unsolicited submissions? If so, what kind of story would you love to see on your desk this year, and what does your ideal submission packet look like?

We consider all submissions (query + first 2500 words) via our website: I’m personally looking for young adult books, and I love literary as well as sci-fi (and combinations of the two make me swoon).

I’ll take this opportunity to say we’ve seen far too many protagonists with super powers, secret family curses, and latent magical abilities. In other words, stories where a typical kid finds out, “Surprise! You’re special.” Unless it’s a truly original take on this concept, we have to say “no” because these stories are too common.

And last, what are some of the personal or professional goals you have for attending SCBWI Bologna and the Bologna International Children’s Fair this year? Is this an important annual event for you?

Though I’ve done BEA in New York and L.A., and the London Book Fair, this is my first trip to Bologna! I’m excited to meet with STNY’s fantastic overseas co-agents (some for the first time), as well as non-U.S. editors and publishers. I would love to find non-U.S. authors looking for representation in the United States and Canada as well.

Thank you so much, John, for taking time to share your knowledge and expertise with us. We look forward to learning great things from you at this year’s SCBWI Bologna event.

My pleasure!

Cynsational Notes

John M. Cusick graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Russian Literature. He began his career with STNY that year. He made his first sale in February 2009, to Flux Books. In addition to handling his own clients, John reads submissions, develops manuscripts, reviews contracts, and aids in contract negotiations. He also manages STNY’s international business. He attends the London Book Fair and Book Expo America, and is a member of the SCBWI and an Associate member of the AAR. His young adult novel, Girl Parts, will be released by Candlewick in August 2010.

See also Interview with Literary Agent John Cusick from editors, agents and blogs, oh my! Peek: “As far as juvenile and teen, I adore Lewis Carroll and M.T. Anderson (wouldn’t that be a fun tea party?).”

Jenny Desmond Walters is the founding regional advisor of the SCBWI Korea chapter. She is an experienced education professional with a love of learning and literature. She has worked in public television developing curriculum and promoting instructional programs, as well as worked extensively with educational publishers and learning materials companies. For the last several years, Jenny has lived in east Asia where she has become an avid writer and observer of life in Japan and Korea. Her articles have been published in national children’s magazines and writing journals, and she has been a member of SCBWI for more than 10 years. Jenny currently resides in Seoul with her husband and three daughters, and she rarely runs out of interesting stories to write.

The SCBWI Bologna 2010 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations. To register, visit the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2010. Note: Special thanks to Angela Cerrito for coordinating this series with SCBWI Bologna and Cynsations.

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith; Tantalize Giveaway

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Jessica Rodriguez from Jessica’s Vision.

In today’s interview, I talk about characters and loss, my favorite books, what started me writing for young adults, the inspiration behind chef Bradley Sanguini, and my Gothic fantasy series. I also offer some writing advice.

Peek: [on the title Tantalize] “It comes from a line in the book: ‘Call me werecurious, but if my mission was to arouse the boy with the beast within, I’d have to tantalize his monster.'”

Note: comment by midnight CST March 3 for a chance to win a copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)!

New Voice: Rachel Hawkins on Hex Hall

Rachel Hawkins is the first-time author of Hex Hall (Disney-Hyperion, March 2, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary.

But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus.

Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Could you tell us the story of “the call” or “the email” when you found out that your book had sold? How did you react? How did you celebrate?

I’m the first to admit that my road to publishing story is…well, insane. I was teaching high school English and going to grad school when I first started working on Hex Hall. Then both of those things fell through in a fairly spectacular manner.

(There was red tape! And pepper spray! And angst!)

So I quit my job and decided to finish writing my book. I had no back-up plan. My goal was to finish the book, get an agent, and sell it within six months.

See? Insane.

For four months, I hacked away on the book that eventually became Hex Hall. Thanks to my husband, who cashed out his retirement check to support me, I didn’t have to get another job.

I’d started writing lots of books before, but I’d never actually attempted to finish one before.

(Shh…big publishing secret: Finishing a book is really, really hard.

I was lucky enough to land an agent pretty quickly once Hex Hall was finished, which left me two more months to fulfill the whole, “Sell the book, don’t starve to death” part of my plan.

My agent, Holly Root, and I did a little polishing on the book, and it went out into the world the first week of April 2008. And then I spent the next week crying, laughing, and basically scaring my entire family. We submitted to thirteen houses (I still have the spreadsheet I made!), and we got a couple of rejections pretty early on.

But by week two of submission, we had an offer! And then we had another offer! And then extremely scary/exciting words like “auction” and “pre-empt” began to float around.

Hex Hall was supposed to go to auction on April 22. We were a week away from my six-month deadline. That whole day, I was Crazy Rachel. I worked out, which, if you know me, is a sure sign that I was freaked out.

Once I’d exhausted my supply of Denise Austin DVDs, I sat on the couch staring at my cell phone. Then my husband sat next to me so that he could stare, too. This obviously sent me from Crazy Rachel to Possibly Homicidal Rachel. I sent him to the store to get bottled water, and not five minutes after he left, the phone rang.

It was Holly, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Are you sitting down?”

I had waited my whole life to hear those words.

So I told her that yes, I was indeed sitting down, and she replied, “You’re going to freak out.”

“I love freaking out!” I answered. Yes. I seriously said that.

And then she told me that Hyperion had come in with a pre-empt offer, and that they wanted all three books, and I was going to be able to write full-time and not starve to death.

After all that, my memories are a little fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure I shouted a bad word (but, you know, joyously), and then I cried.

Best. Day. Ever.

As a paranormal writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time paranormal reader? Did a particular book or books inspire you?

I’ve always had a deep love for The Spooky. My mom was a big fan of old-fashioned scary movies, like “The Innocents” or “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and I grew up watching those with her. Then as I got older, I got very into R.L. Stine books (Fear Street! Loved. It.), and Christopher Pike, and some of the earlier Stephen King.

But far and away my favorite author was Lois Duncan. I’m pretty sure I read everything she ever wrote. She had the coolest way of telling stories about real, believable people caught in fantastic (and sometimes horrific) situations.

And her books dealt with such out there stuff! Astral projection! Immortality! A hillbilly witch who murdered your cousins and now wants to marry your dad!

(Oh, yeah. That’s a real book. Summer of Fear (Laurel Leaf, 1977). You know you want it now!)

I’ve always thought it was kind of funny how drawn I am to paranormal stories. I’m like the least dark person ever (the sheer amount of pink in my closet can attest to that!), and I’m not a big believer in the paranormal, either.

But I think there’s something about the heightened emotions of paranormal stories that really resonates with me, both as a writer and a reader. In a lot of paranormals, the stakes really are life and death.

And hot boys can be intimidating enough to teenage girls. But hot boys with super powers? Forget about it!

Cynsational Notes

From Hyperion Books: “Rachel Hawkins was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Alabama, and is currently at work on the next book in the Hex Hall series. To the best of her knowledge, Rachel is not a witch, though some of her former students may disagree….”

“Hawkins’s proficient and entertaining debut is jam-packed with magical creatures and mystery…the story is well paced and plotted with tween-friendly humor and well-developed characters, particularly awkward but compassionate Sophie. The ending satisfies while paving the way for future books.” —Publishers Weekly

Read the prologue to Hex Hall from J-4 Book Club.